Senate May Vote On Obamacare Repeal Without Knowing Cost Or Coverage Loss

Andrew Harnik/AP

As Senate Republicans scramble to gather 50 votes on a bill that would repeal key pieces of the Affordable Care Act and convert Medicaid into a shrinking block grant controlled by the states, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced Monday that it will not be able to fully evaluate the bill’s impact on premiums, the uninsured or the federal budget in the next two weeks.

While promising a “preliminary assessment” of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation by early next week, the CBO noted that it does not have time to study how many people could lose their health insurance if the plan became law.

“CBO will provide as much qualitative information as possible about the effects of the legislation, however CBO will not be able to provide point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums for at least several weeks,” according to the CBO statement.

Republicans do not have several weeks.

Their ability to pass the repeal bill with only 50 votes—thus avoiding a Democratic filibuster—expires at the end of September.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted his GOP colleagues for using the CBO merely to check a procedural box rather than to gather information about the impact their bill would have on millions of people.

“No CBO score, not a single hearing, everybody is totally in the dark about the effects of this bill,” Schumer complained. “This is legislative malpractice of the highest order.”


Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.